With his hands covered in pudding, Brigham Young University President Kevin J Worthen turned to the preschooler next to him and asked, "Are you having fun?"
Along with McKay School of Education Dean Mary Anne Prater and BYU Teacher Education Department Chair Michael Tunnell, Worthen participated in a statewide finger painting challenge as part of the Week of the Young Child, an annual celebration of young learners. They painted side by side with preschoolers from the BYU Child and Family Studies Laboratory Tuesday morning.
"It was a lot of fun," Worthen said. "It isn't often I get to finger paint and have it be part of the job."
Before the finger painting began, Worthen read White Rabbit's Color Book to the preschool class. He engaged the children by having them guess what color the rabbit would become.
"I love that story," one preschooler said.
The children rotated through five finger painting activities: painting with pudding, painting with gel paint, light painting, painting on an easel, and painting with paint-filled ice cubes. The ice cubes were a favorite for many, especially for Worthen.
"It was cold," Worthen said. "It was fun because you could see how the colors would would mix together as the ice cubes melted."
Mixing colors together was one of the reasons Worthen took some time to come finger painting, but the the chance to recognize the work of the BYU Child and Family Studies Lab and the importance of education for young children was the bigger reason.
"It's important to teach children while they are very young," said Worthen. "Teaching teachers to know how to work with young children is an important part of BYU's mission. Having a program where our students are actually teaching kids makes it much more meaningful for our students. Then they will be prepared as they go out and teach in the community."
Before Worthen, Prater and Tunnell left, the preschoolers thanked them for coming.
"We had a lot of fun doing that," one preschooler said.
The Week of the Young Child is sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). This year the Utah System of Higher Education Early Childhood Committee and the Utah division of NAEYC have collaborated to raise awareness of the importance of "celebrating our youngest learners," which is the theme for this year's Week of the Young Child.
"I enjoy those kinds of activities because they provide a learning opportunity," Prater said. "I talked to the kids about what colors they were using and what shapes they were making. I asked them if they could write the first letter of their name. One girl at the end said, 'This was so fun,' and that made it all worthwhile."
The challenge kicked off on March 28, at the annual Utah Early Childhood Conference, when author Richard Paul Evans challenged Utah Governor Gary Herbert and Weber State University President Charles A. Wight, to finger paint with a young child. Wight then challenged all university presidents across the state of Utah as well as deans of the colleges of the education to accept the challenge.
University presidents statewide have accepted the finger painting challenge. David W. Pershing, president of the University of Utah, specifically challenged Worthen in a video posted earlier this week.
The Utah Association for the Education of Young Children hopes to have more than 25,000 leaders and citizens join the finger painting challenge to call attention to the importance of educating young children.
Writer: Lindsey Williams